From the Elders of Southeast Valley Bible Church
April 1, 2020
“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." (Psalm 145:17-18, ESV)
What a joy it is to know and to be known by our great God! He is kind in all his works, and near to those who call on Him. Though we are practicing social distancing, we believe that our God has not distanced Himself from us. Instead, He sent His Son, Jesus, to enter into our world to atone for our sin, and freely gave us His Spirit to help us as we wait for our Lord’s coming.
As many of you have likely seen, the Arizona Governor, Doug Doucey, has issued a state-wide “stay-at-home” order beginning last night (Tuesday 3/31) at 5 p.m and extending at least through April 30th. Though this provision classifies certain necessary religious functions as “essential”, we believe our optional weekly small group in-person gatherings are excluded from the spirit of the religious exemption. Our intention as a church is to encourage full and cheerful compliance with this order as an expression of our submission to Christ.
In light of this executive order, we have decided to implement the following measures at Southeast Valley Bible Church:
- Until otherwise advised, we will continue to meet for our video worship service on Sundays at 10:45 a.m. The videos will be made available at our website at sevbc.org/services and at our Facebook page.
- We will meet for our video Bible Class hour on Sundays at 9:45 a.m. The current plan is to do several more “round robin” pastoral discussions on a number of relevant topics. If you have questions about the Bible, the church, Christian living, theology, current events, or anything else, please send us those questions by using the contact form at sevbc.org/contact-us.
- The Genesis Kids live-stream class will meet on Sundays at 5 p.m. using Zoom. A worksheet will be available for download that your kids can work before class. Be sure to bring the worksheet with you to the class!
- Beginning immediately, all in-person small groups and Bible studies will be cancelled.
- Beginning this week, we will be organizing small group meetings using Zoom, a video and phone chat platform. This week, ask your group leader what the plan is for your group. Soon, we will provide more instructions about the plan for next week. Using Zoom will enable us to see and hear one another in real time and give us an opportunity to talk to one another, pray with and for one another together, and open up the Bible together. More instructions for how to download and use Zoom will be forthcoming.
- Beginning today, Wednesday 4/1, at 1 p.m., one of our pastors will lead a short live-streamed Scripture reading, devotional thought, and prayer time called The Wednesday Word, which you can watch live on our Facebook page. Our hope is to do this midweek devotional time on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. Feel free to write notes of encouragement in the comments section. You can view this live video even without setting up a Facebook account by visiting our page at facebook.com/sevbcaz/live. We hope these midweek prayer and devotional times will be an encouragement to those who are able to join in.
We will continue to monitor the situation and make any needed changes as they arise.
Thank you for your prayers and for the way you are continuing to care for one another. We are confident that God is working in ways that, though we can’t yet understand why, will ultimately be for our good and for His glory.
Trusting Jesus together,
From the Elders of Southeast Valley Bible Church
March 27, 2020
Thank you for your generosity and patience toward us during this peculiar time. We as pastors have been encouraged by your feedback from our video service last Sunday. Though we missed being together, we were struck by the strange and surprising unity we were able to experience as we all gathered around our screens in a time of worship together.
Since our last update, the requests of state and national governments concerning our gathering have remained unchanged. Therefore, we will continue to monitor the situation and make any needed changes as they arise.
This upcoming Sunday, 3/29, we will once again meet using the video format posted at our website at sevbc.org/services and on our Facebook page. We will, however, be adding a couple items.
- Beginning at 9:30 a.m., we will host a combined online class during the Bible Class hour. This week, our Bible Class hour will feature a conversation of the Pastoral Team discussing the current situation, the challenges and blessings that our church faces in the midst of this, Christian liberty and the coronavirus, and unique opportunities we have to love one another well during this time. We hope you’ll join us.
- The video worship service will begin at 10:45 a.m. (after a time for family “fellowship cafe”). We would encourage you to make every effort to worship with us at the same time, as an extension of our desire for unity.
- Downloads of song lyrics and the sermon notes will be made available on the website at sevbc.org/services.
For our families with kids, we wanted to offer a couple helpful resources for you as it relates to your time of family worship on Sunday:
- We will provide a couple activity sheets that we will make available on the sevbc.org/services page. Feel free to print these off and have your kids finish them. Hold onto them until Sunday evening.
- We will host a special Genesis Kids livestream class for families with children ages 4-12 on Sunday evening at 5 p.m. We will use an online platform called Zoom so we can all see each other. More information to follow.
In times of uncertainty, we are thankful that we can stand on Jesus, the Rock of Ages, who knows and who holds all things in His hands.
Continue to care for one another. We all count it a great privilege to be your shepherds. Know that you are loved and prayed for regularly.
In the Love of Jesus,
From the Elders of Southeast Valley Bible Church
March 17, 2020
Since our last update on our church’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation on the ground has changed rapidly. On Sunday, 3/15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued official recommendations for organizers of “mass gatherings” to postpone or cancel in-person gatherings of more than 50 people all over the United States. Then, on Monday, 3/16, President Trump urged Americans to limit in-person gatherings to no more than 10 people at a time through the end of March, both publicly and in home settings. The Arizona Department of Health Services provided an update today, Tuesday 3/17, reaffirming the White House’s request of limiting in-person gatherings to no more than 10 people at a time, and also encouraging regular hand-washing and for those who are sick or immunocompromised to avoid public activity. At the rate this virus is spreading in the United States, we may very well be heading for requests for complete home isolation and quarantine in the not-so-distant future.
As Christians, we consider meeting together a sacred privilege. In fact, we view the normal gathering of our membership as a necessary part of our lives together as a Christian church. Ordinarily, we make every effort to prioritize the public gathering, forsaking worldly pursuits so that we can worship the Lord and encourage one another as he commanded. Hebrews 10:24-25 is a foundational passage to this end: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This text teaches that Christians must not abandon the regular gathering of Christians in willful abandonment.
However, as Christians, we also hold that God has ordained our government for our good. Right now, our government is making bold and specific requests of the public. Public health authorities and government officials have determined that if nothing changes in the normal social life in the United States, the COVID-19 virus will spread rapidly and will overwhelm hospitals, other medical facilities, and healthcare workers, resulting in an unknown number of severe illnesses and deaths. This is already being seen in countries like Italy. Their first objective is to “flatten the curve” by strongly urging social distancing measures that limit human contact in order to slow the spread of the virus. These measures are not intended to prevent the arrival of the virus; that much is already assured. Rather, the authorities are attempting to slow the spread of the virus to spread out the infected cases in order to allow time for the development of a vaccine and for health workers to adequately deal with cases as they arrive.
As an elder team, it seems clear to us that these honest and urgent requests from our government are reasonable and that they are not intended to target churches on the basis of their worship. Rather, authorities are doing what they can to care for the public and have made requests of all public gatherings, including our church family. Because we understand that our government serves as “God’s servant for [our] good” (Romans 13:4) when not forcing Christians to violate the clear commands of God in His Word, we see these requests as an incredible opportunity to joyfully submit to the recommendations of the authorities as an extension of our submission to God. We do not understand the government’s request as a violation of Hebrews 10:25, because that text only comments on regular absence from church gatherings out of willful neglect, not out of constrained necessity. Further, as Jesus makes clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the command to love our neighbor includes not only our attitudes and actions toward fellow church members, but also toward our unsaved neighbors. Gathering together corporately and then going back into the community with the potential virus spreading to our neighbors through us is not loving our neighbor. Therefore, we view these recommendations as an opportunity for all of us to love our neighbors by doing what we can to assist in slowing down the spread of the virus while simultaneously doing what we can do to continue to worship the Lord together and to encourage one another as a church. In doing so, we join many other generations of the Christian Church throughout the centuries that have responded in similar ways to public health emergencies in their day.
In light of these recommendations from national and state authorities, we have decided to implement the following measures at Southeast Valley Bible Church:
- Beginning this upcoming Sunday, 3/22, our in-person Sunday worship services will be cancelled, at least through the end of the month of March, at which point we will send another update. Instead of live gatherings, we will provide a video link for families to join us in viewing a video recording of the service this week, with the hopes of a livestream beginning the following week. Members may meet together with one another to view the service together if they wish, though we would encourage that our members respect the government’s requests, which at this time is asking to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people per location. For this Sunday, we would encourage families to gather together at 10:45 a.m. for our video service. Instructions for how to access this video service will be provided soon.
- For this upcoming Sunday, 3/22, our Sunday School classes will be cancelled. Members are encouraged to use this extra time for a time of family worship, prayer, and Bible Study. We are working on a plan for a virtual Sunday School time for the following weeks and will provide an update when we have one.
- Beginning today, Tuesday, 3/17, weekly small groups and Bible studies may split up into smaller in-person groups for prayer and Bible study, though these smaller gatherings will be optional. Please communicate with your small group leader for details and let them know if you would like to meet with a smaller group. This week, group leaders are encouraged to be creative. Again, we would ask leaders to respect the government’s current request for no more than 10 people per location.
- Members are encouraged to reach out to other members who live nearby, particularly older folks and those who have young children, and to call, text, and video chat regularly to make sure they have what they need (groceries, wipes, toilet paper, medicine, etc.). Many of our brothers and sisters will also need encouragement, prayer, and support. Use this time to dig in and love your church family well.
We know that during times like these, many small businesses and other companies will begin to struggle financially. This can be a great source of fear and anxiety for many. Therefore, we would like to simultaneously encourage two things for our members. First, if you are in genuine need, please reach out to us. We take our responsibility to care for one another seriously, and we have a variety of ways of accomplishing that. Second, if you are able, please commit to continue faithfully giving financially to support the ministry at Southeast Valley. We are still continuing to serve one another, to faithfully equip the saints for ministry, and to sacrificially give for ministry partners all over the world. We know that your faithful giving will be an expression of faith. We would encourage all of you not to grow weary in doing good. Please continue to give online at our giving portal, here, or by mailing us checks. Please mail your checks to Southeast Valley Bible Church, 710 E Williams Field Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85295.
We are taking these measures in accordance with the most current information available to us from state and national authorities. We will continue to monitor this situation, and provide further updates if and as they are necessary.
As we continue to walk down this road, we would ask for dedicated and specific prayer for us, the Elders, perhaps at the same time each day (e.g. every day at 12 p.m.). This is an unprecedented situation for us, and we are attempting to walk in wisdom and grace in a way that honors Christ, one another, and our governing authorities. We understand opinions may differ on the best way forward, but we would ask our members to join us as we “clothe [ourselves], all of [us], with humility toward one another, for God ‘opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5).
Please continue to pray for one another and for us as we consider walking in love together.
In the Love of Jesus,
From the Elders of Southeast Valley Bible Church
March 14, 2020
As an Elder team, we have been actively monitoring the situation concerning the recently classified pandemic of COVID-19. As of Saturday, 3/14 , there are 12 confirmed cases in the state of Arizona. While this is a small number, it should be noted that very few tests have been done. For this reason, health authorities at both the state and national levels have made recommendations for the public response. In light of these recommendations, we have decided to implement the following measures at Southeast Valley Bible Church:
- Our Sunday worship service and weekly small groups will NOT be cancelled. As of right now, the authorities have not asked us to take such a measure. We will actively monitor this.
- We would ask those who are currently experiencing any symptoms to please stay home. We would prefer to not unnecessarily expose others in our church (particularly our more vulnerable folks) to a virus. Sermon recordings will be available immediately after the conclusion of the worship service on our website. As of Sunday, 3/15, we do not have a live-stream option for those who need to stay home. However, our media team is working on a solution for the coming weeks, hopefully to be available by Sunday, 3/22.
- We would ask all congregants to avoid handshaking and hugging for the foreseeable future. Instead, lets greet each other creatively with air high fives, elbow taps, bows, and head nods
- Rather than passing the offering plates, we would ask all congregants to place their tithes and offerings in offering plates that will be set up in the back of the auditorium at the conclusion of the worship service, or to give using the online giving portal, here.
We are implementing these measures with the full assurance of the sweeping sovereignty of our God. Because we are in Christ, we have no reason to fear. Nevertheless, it is important for us to walk humbly in both wisdom and faith as we seek to love our neighbor and worship our Lord. We trust that our time of corporate worship, in times like this, will be ever sweeter and more tender.
We will continue to monitor this situation, and provide updates if and as they are necessary. Please continue to pray for one another and for us as we consider walking in wisdom together.